How can I tell if my dog is depressed?

dog laying in a blanket

Depression in dogs can be hard to spot. Here’s how to tell if your beloved pooch is struggling and what you can do to help.

Dogs are often perceived as fun-loving, carefree creatures. But just like us, they can suffer from anxiety and depression at certain times in their lives. We’re sure the thought of your playful pup feeling blue is enough to dampen your spirits, too, but you’ll be glad to know there are ways you can help.

Finding the cause of your furry friend’s emotions is key to getting them on the road to happiness, so we’ll explore the many reasons which could make them feel this way.

You’ll also learn how to improve their mood and why getting a dog insurance quote to cover your pup is so important.

What are the signs of depression in dogs?

Your four-legged friend is a beloved family member. You hold a special bond and enjoy many happy moments together, yet you’re starting to think they seem a little ‘off’.

Knowing when something’s up with your pup can be tough. But canines show various signs of depression (some more subtle than others) and as their responsible pet parent, it’s your job to know when they’re not quite right.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs your pooch is feeling blue:

  • Sleeping more than they used to.

  • Finding it hard to settle and seeming restless.

  • No longer enthusiastic about going out for walkies (you really know something’s up when this happens).

  • Eating differently – maybe less than before or picking throughout the day.

  • Becoming socially withdrawn and not interested in playing.

  • Behaving differently (chewing, destruction, toileting indoors and aggression).

  • Excessively licking their paws.

  • Being more vocal and hyperactive.

While all these symptoms point to depression, they could also be the result of another health concern. As soon as you notice something wrong with your pet, take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis.

Haven’t got your pet protected yet? Get in touch with Purely Pets for a dog insurance . It is important to note that our insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions.

Why is my dog feeling sad?

There’s not a lot worse than seeing your cheerful pooch slumped in its bed with sad eyes and looking lacklustre. You want your sad dog to feel like its old, happy self again, so you’ll need to get to the root of the issue to help them.

There are a host of reasons for dog depression, which include anxiety from fears and phobias to changes in their environment or routine.

Environmental changes

Our canine companions can’t get enough of a good routine. It makes them feel comfortable and confident in their home and means they know when to expect dinner and walkies every day. So, when something upsets their regular schedule, it can take its toll on their emotions.

You might see a change in your pup’s behaviour if you:

  • Move to a new home.

  • Have your current house renovated/re-organised.

  • Get new furniture (especially if you get rid of their favourite sofa).

With time, your pooch should get used to its new surroundings, but don’t be surprised if they seem a little down while trying to process the changes.

Changes in your family

One of the biggest sources of upheaval for a dog is when there’s a change in the pack. A new social dynamic means that your dog has to figure out its place in the family all over again.

Changes in your pack dynamic could come from:

  • A family member spending more time away from home, like getting a new job or going to university.

  • Having a new baby.

  • Bringing home a new pet.

  • A partner moving in with you.

  • Getting a divorce.

  • Someone or another animal passing away.

Not only does your dog feel more lonely and insecure when suddenly left alone more often, but when a new person or animal enters your home, they can also feel left out or like you care a little less. Of course, you know this is definitely not the case, but they aren’t so sure!

Fears and phobias

We’re all afraid of something, right? Well, so are our furry friends, so what’s the difference?

As we understand our own fears, we can make sure we steer clear of the cause or face them head on. We can also speak to someone else about them and find help if we need to.

Without the ability to tell us how they’re feeling, canines find it harder to communicate their phobias, but you may well hear them trying when they start barking more than they used to!

Doggy depression often hints at an underlying issue that needs addressing, like a noise phobia or separation anxiety (we’ve got tips to cope elsewhere on our site).

You’ll need to see the vet and provide as much information about your pup’s behaviour as possible to get to the root of their anxiety.

Worried about the cost of vet bills? Pet insurance is there to help you financially in an emergency and make sure your canine gets the care it truly . However, behavioural treatment at Purely Pets is only covered for new conditions once the policy has been in force for a minimum of 24 months.

At Purely Pets, we offer 15 levels of lifetime cover to suit every kind of dog and its owner, so get in touch for a dog insurance quote today.


We take them running in the morning and go for walkies at night. That keeps them occupied, surely?

But while your dog might look chilled out in their bed, they might be well and truly bored! What appears to us to be the ideal ‘dog’s life’ could actually lead to depression and behavioural problems in your pooch.

Some pup’s spend up to 12 hours awake a day with absolutely nothing to do. Can you imagine that? This can be especially tough for working breeds that need lots of and stimulation.

Not sure how often you need to walk your pet? Find out in our article on how much exercise a dog needs.

Not training properly

When you bring your four-legged family member home, they need to be trained to allow them more free time off the lead.

How you go about training your dog and interact with them daily has a real impact on their mood. According to Clinical Animal Behaviourist Rosie Bescoby, positive reinforcement is key to success, which could mean lots of pats, encouraging words and treats. 

Rosie also says how important it is to always keep calm and never punish your dog when they don’t do something the way you want. This could knock their confidence and cause chronic stress and depression.

You can see what other training tips and dog care advice Rosie has for pet parents in our Good Behaviour Series.

Seasonal affective disorder

Do you find yourself feeling blue during winter? The long cold period and darker days might affect your pet, too!

But it’s more likely due to the disruption in their walking schedule than the weather – long hours of later walks in the summer tend to shorten and become less frequent in winter, making your pooch feel sad.

In physical pain or ill

Another illness or severe pain could be the cause of your dog’s depression. When they feel under the weather, they’re less likely to do what they usually enjoy (like walking), making them feel even worse.

A lot of the depression symptoms are also signs of other medical concerns, so whenever you spot your pet looking a little down, it’s important you see the vet.

If you’re worried about your dog’s condition and need further advice, you can call us for a vet video consultation. When you get a dog insurance quote and cover your canine companion with us, you get 24/7 access to this service.

It’s just the way they are

We’re all unique and our four-legged friends are no different. While some pups can be playful around the clock and find plenty to entertain themselves when left alone, others appear more reserved and simply sit in their favourite sofa spot all day long.

This doesn’t mean they’re not content, though. It’s your job to get to know your dog’s personality and be aware of what their ‘normal’ state is to know when something’s not right.

6 tips to help your depressed dog

dogs playing together with a toy

Although it can be heart-breaking to see your faithful friend down in the dumps, it’s good to know there are things you can do to improve their mood.

The first thing to combat their depression is identifying there’s a problem, and you’ve already done that! So, what’s next?

  1. Get a dog insurance quote and protect your beloved canine if you haven’t already. Although pet policies don’t cover pre-existing conditions, they’ll help pay to treat any future health issues they develop, which could alleviate negative emotions in your pet.

  2. Whisk your dog to the vet to check for underlying health issues that could be causing their sadness.

  3. Give your pup plenty of attention. Canine cuddles and loyal companionship is good for you both. According to the Mental Health Foundation, dogs can ease anxiety and boost our confidence, so it’s only right we give back to them in the same way. And who’d say no to more snuggles with their pooch?

  4. Keep your dog active and mentally stimulated with plenty of walks and fun opportunities in your home, too. This could mean more games of hide and seek and puzzle feeders and toys to keep them occupied when you’re out.

  5. Stick to a routine whenever possible. After a house move, focus on getting your dog’s meal times and walking schedule back on track as soon as possible to help them adjust to the changes.

  6. Don’t leave them by themselves for too long. If you’ve been working at home and now need to go to the office again, make sure someone is around to check on your dog during the day and take them out for a short walk.

We know it can be hard to make changes when your dog feels affected, especially with a major life event like having a baby. With a new, small human at home, everyone’s schedule can become disrupted, which means your dog’s walks and meals aren’t always at the normal time either.

In this case, it’s important to recognise your pup’s feeling a little down and give them as much TLC as possible to let them know they’re still as important as ever!

Dog Insurance Quote
  • 98% claims paid*
  • 24/7 vet video consultations
  • Claims paid directly to vet
  • Interest free monthly payments

When should I see a vet about a sad dog?

If your usually happy pup suddenly seems depressed and you’re not sure why, it’s best to get them checked by your vet. If an illness or injury is causing their sadness, they’ll be able to treat them, and if it isn’t? It’s time to look at what else could be causing their feelings.

Remember, regular vet visits are always important to spot underlying conditions, even when your dog seems to be in perfect health. Routine care won’t be included in your dog insurance quote, but it should be part of your budget as a responsible pet parent.

Can dogs recover from depression?

With a little help from its human friends, dogs can usually bounce back pretty quickly from a bout of depression.

Provide plenty of love and attention, lots of exercise opportunities and keep to a routine as best as possible to boost your dog’s mood. Don’t forget to reward them for their good behaviour, too!

If your pet’s sadness seems to be lasting a long time, it’s likely because of something more serious and needs professional attention.

Are some breeds more prone to depression than others?

Although every type of canine has its fair share of ups and downs, some might be more predisposed to feeling blue than others. These breeds include some of the more intelligent and active dogs, like:

  • Cocker spaniel

  • Labrador retriever

  • Border collie

  • Basset hound

  • German shepherd

  • Bichon frise

This doesn’t mean to say that if you own one of these dogs that they’ll definitely become depressed at some point in their life. You’ll just have to keep a close eye on them and make sure they’re well stimulated both physically and mentally.

Should I leave the radio on to stop my dog feeling lonely?

Do you leave your favourite tunes on for your dog when you go out? Maybe you switch on the TV before you head out the door? While it might seem comforting to have a constant noise while home alone, it probably isn’t making much difference (except to your electricity bill).

One study looked at the effects of classical music and audiobooks on dogs when left by themselves, and while it showed the music had a slightly bigger effect than spoken word, it didn’t do much for pets.

In fact, your dog might be better off enjoying a bit of peace and quiet while you’re gone, so it’s worth thinking twice and seeing if it makes a difference by not turning the radio on.

How can I tell my dog has separation anxiety?

According to research performed by Lords & Labradors, separation anxiety is the most common canine mental health condition in the UK. But how can you tell your dog is suffering when you go out the door and it’s not just a velcro dog feeling lonely?

Some signs are:

  • Toileting around the house.

  • Increased vocalisation (neighbours might complain about noise when you’re out).

  • Destroying items in your home (your dog insurance quote only covers damage to another property).

  • Shaking when you’re getting ready to go out.

If you suspect this is the reason for your dog’s depression, you’ll need to work on getting them used to spending short periods alone or speak to your vet about finding an animal behaviourist to help.

Dog with separation anxiety - what can you do to help?

Unfortunately, no pet parent can be with their furry friend around the clock. We sometimes need to pop to the shops or have to go out to work, so helping your pet get comfortable with being alone is extremely important when they become a part of your family.

We joined forces with Rosie Bescoby to provide helpful tips on separation anxiety training (watch the full video as part of the Good Behaviour Series). Here’s what you can do:

  • Encourage your dog to settle by themselves while you’re still at home.

  • Use baby gates as a barrier between you and your pet.

  • Don’t leave them longer than they can manage.

  • Slowly build up the length of periods they’re alone.

  • Try appeasing pheromones to help them feel more comfortable.

If you’re still struggling after using our tips, it might be time to get professional help. Speak with your vet or call our 24-hour vet video service for advice if you insure your dog with us.

Still not got one of our lifetime plans to protect your pet? Get a dog insurance quote from Purely Pets for ongoing support from the specialists.

What other mental health conditions can dogs suffer from?

Although it might be sad to think about, depression and separation anxiety aren’t the only health issues that affect your pup’s mind. Here are a few other medical concerns we see in canines:

  • Social anxiety: Some pups fear meeting new people and other dogs, especially when they’re away from home.

  • Noise anxiety: This is pretty common in canines, especially around bonfire night when fireworks can set off whining, barking and shaking.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This is often seen in working dogs (like police and military pups), but it can happen to any canine that’s had a stressful experience.

  • Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD): Also known as doggy dementia, CCD affects hounds like Alzheimer’s does humans, causing your pet to seem distant, confused and disoriented.

You know your pet better than anyone, so as soon as you notice something’s not quite right, it’s important you take them for a check-up.

Why get a dog insurance quote from Purely Pets?

dog cuddling with owner

Here at Purely Pets, we can’t get enough of dogs! We care about your playful pup just as much as you do, and understand that as your loving, loyal companion, you want only the best for them.

That’s why we only offer lifetime policies to make sure every dog gets the care they deserve when they really need it.

Enjoy unlimited vet video consultations, an online portal to manage your policy easily, and vet bills paid directly to your vet. We’ll also give you and a friend a £15 cash payment via PayPal or a £15 Amazon voucher, if you refer a friend or family member and they make a qualifying purchase*

So, why put off getting award-winning pet insurance any longer? Get a dog insurance quote from Purely Pets today

*Subject to terms and conditions

Pet Insurance Quote

  • 98% claims paid *
  • Claims paid directly to vets
  • 24/7 vet video consultations
  • Interest free monthly payments